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College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 52
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654



Catching Up with CALS May 31, 2017

Dean's Message — CAFE and a Whole Lot on CALS' Plate

The Idaho Center for Food and Agriculture (CAFE) is going to be a major focus of attention for the foreseeable future. It is a large, complex project that will be transformational for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the University of Idaho and for Idaho agriculture.

After meeting with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and others about CAFE in recent weeks, I met with the boards of directors of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association and United Dairymen of Idaho this morning in Twin Falls.

We are working hard to listen to the many parties interested in CAFE about their ideas and concerns and inform them of our progress. The brief executive summary of the feasibility study is included in this newsletter to offer you much the same update as others are receiving.

CAFE is the biggest project, but CALS is moving forward on many other fronts.

The college is forming three new departments effective July 1: Plant Sciences; Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology; and Soil and Water Systems; to better serve our students and the public who rely on CALS for teaching, research and extension. We also are better able to align our resources to meet modern needs than the 35-year-old structure of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences, and Agricultural Systems Management. The departments' faculty and many others in CALS have devoted a lot of effort to matching our programs to modern needs.

We also will launch our Summer of Science activities for children this Saturday as part of our Moscow Farmers Market outreach this season. I am looking forward to sharing the fascinating world of insects and science with them in the morning at the market and in the early afternoon on campus.

As the incoming president of the Entomological Society of America, I share its belief that we must create opportunities to help all Americans better understand and appreciate the role of science in our lives.

I hope CALS faculty and staff in Moscow will stop by our tent during Saturday morning markets in Friendship Square by the clock sometime between now and the end of August. If you’re visiting Moscow over a Saturday, the market is a great way to enjoy Moscow’s strong sense of community.

Dean Michael Parrella

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

By the Numbers 

257 native bee species live on the Palouse, according to historical records, and 28 species of bumble bees live in Idaho. On June 10, the Summer of Science will feature Paul Rhoades, who earned a doctorate studying Palouse pollinators.

Our Stories — With Wheat, Weather Matters

A field southeast of Lewiston and 15 other fields across northern and southern Idaho will become temporary weather stations overseen by University of Idaho Extension researchers to track conditions that can damage wheat quality.UI Extension regional educator Doug Finkelnburg of Nez Perce County and UI regional agronomist Kurt Schroeder of Moscow set up a weather station at a wheat variety trial southeast of Lewiston.

Last year, wheat farmers across northern Idaho and in adjacent states watched world wheat prices drop as an abundant crop — including their own — neared harvest. They remained optimistic that the high yields would offset low prices. Then reality hit, the crop’s quality was subpar because of a complicated falling numbers issue.

Suddenly as much as 40 percent of their crop was affected by a test that could divert much of their harvest from the human food market to animal feed at much lower prices. The low falling number scores cost growers millions of dollars with estimates ranging from $30 million to $140 million regionwide.

The weather stations will help researchers and wheat growers better understand what environmental factors led to low falling number scores.

Researchers say factors such as big temperature swings, highs in the 70s or 80s and lows in the 30s, early in July 2016 damaged wheat kernels as starch was forming.

In 2014, heavy rains at harvest time across southern Idaho damaged wheat by causing it to sprout, another factor that can lead to low falling number scores.

The Idaho Wheat Commission funded the purchase of 16 weather stations that will monitor temperature and rainfall at wheat variety trials throughout the state.

The plan by UI Extension Nez Perce County-based regional educator Doug Finkelnburg will help track both the environmental and genetic factors that contribute to low falling number scores.

Moscow-based regional agronomist and pathologist Kurt Schroeder oversaw weather station installations at variety trial locations. The weather data will help sort through why some varieties seem resistant and others vulnerable to the problem.

In southern Idaho, Aberdeen-based small grains pathologist Juliet Marshall, who holds the Wheat Commission-endowed “Potlatch” Joe Anderson Cereal Agronomics Professorship, will collaborate on the weather monitoring.

During normal growing seasons, growers in relatively small locations encounter low falling number scores. The heavy 2014 and 2016 losses broke from that pattern.

Increasing problems with falling number scores led UI Extension researchers to launch multiple studies, many funded by the Idaho Wheat Commission, to better understand the situation.

UI wheat breeder Jianli Chen, who holds the Idaho Wheat Commission-endowed D. Blaine Jacobson Wheat Breeding Professorship, will focus a study on finding the causes and effects of low falling number scores in hard white spring wheat grown in 2015 and 2016.

The falling numbers test measures the amount of time it takes a stirring rod to drop through a cylinder of gelatin-like wheat starch. A thin starch gel means a low falling number score. Many wheat millers make 250 the minimum number they will accept for making flour, and prefer wheat with scores of 300 and up.

Food scientist Amy Lin is studying the wheat enzymes known as alpha-amylases and their effects on falling number scores. Lin will study the effects of pre-harvest sprouting on wheat starch and flour quality.

UI wheat geneticist Daolin Fu will study the enzymes that affect wheat quality and their genetic basis.

Summer of Science Launches Saturday at Farmers Market

The Summer of Science starts Saturday, June 3, at the Moscow Farmers Market with a series of programs and events to help young children have fun while learning about science and practicing its basic skills.Summer of Science activities sponsored by CALS get started Saturday, June 3, at the Moscow Farmers Market. Children in kindergarten through fifth grades will receive a free science kit.

Young scientists can pick up a free kit to equip them with the tools of science from the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences tent at the market. The college is sponsoring the Summer of Science events.

The first event planned Saturday, June 3, will feature entomologists, scientists who study insects. Michael Parrella, an entomologist and the college’s dean, will lead a team of insect experts at the Moscow Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to noon.

A special Saturday Academy of Science program and a tour of the William F. Barr Entomological Museum on the UI campus will follow from 1 to 2 p.m. Children will learn more about local insects and see some of the museum’s more than 1 million insect specimens.

The campus program will be held at the Iddings Agricultural Sciences Building at Sixth and Rayburn Streets.

Summer of Science events are geared to children in kindergarten through fifth grade. Children will explore insects and other animals, food, plants, water, soil, money, agriculture and the ways that science helps people learn about them.

Children who visit the college’s tent Saturday at Moscow Farmers Market near the clock at Friendship Square at Fourth and Main Streets will examine insects under large magnifying glasses and practice drawing bugs.

Parrella is vice president of the Entomological Society of America. He will be joined by Ed Bechinski, a popular speaker on insects who specializes in integrated pest management and serves as UI Extension entomology specialist for North Idaho.

Insect experts Ed Lewis and Shirley Luckhart, who recently established the UI Center for Health in the Human Ecosystem, will also join the team.

On June 10, the farmers market program from 9 a.m. to noon will focus on native pollinators, from honey bees to bumble bees to butterflies.

Another Saturday Academy of Science program highlighting native pollinators and short expeditions to find them will follow from 1-2 p.m. at the south entry to the UI Arboretum and Botanical Garden, 1200 West Palouse River Dr.

Other Summer of Science programs at the market include:

  • June 17: Growing plants from leaves with UI horticulture professor Bob Tripepi.
  • June 24: Earthworms, including the giant Palouse earthworm, with UI soil science professor Jodi Johnson-Maynard.

Summer of Science events at Moscow Farmers Market will run through August. For more information, visit

Feasibility Study Summary Outlines CAFE Basics

A feasibility study examining the proposed Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) and its ability to respond to major changes in Idaho agriculture was commissioned by the University of Idaho in 2016. CAFE would create the largest research dairy in the U.S. that will address challenges and opportunities associated with animal agriculture and food processing nationwide.

The center would include a 2,000-cow dairy relying on robotic milking machines, encompass 1,000 acres of associated cropland, employ wastewater treatment and nutrient recovery systems, allow development of a food processing facility, offer laboratory space and provide faculty, staff and student housing.

Nationally, animal operations and dairy processing facilities have become larger and more concentrated to take advantage of economies of scale. Trends in southern Idaho magnify those changes with a dairy herd that has tripled in 25 years, vaulting the state’s milk production from 10th to third nationally. Idaho’s food processing industry has paralleled this growth, expanding cheese and yogurt production.

The changes put pressure on resource and waste management. CAFE’s research will focus on:

  • Efficient water use
  • Water and air quality and soil health
  • Bio-refining, anaerobic digestion, energy production, recycling and reuse
  • Value-added food processing and animal-based byproducts, pathogen-free fiber, recovered chemicals, bio-plastics and petrochemical precursor substitutes

The center’s mission will include examining the sociology of dairy industry and community relations, and business and economic factors.

This approach will improve upon existing sustainable practices to support a profitable and environmentally sound dairy and food industry.

The concept of purchasing an existing dairy was reviewed. Various factors made this option less attractive and not feasible. Retrofitting an existing dairy was projected to cost $14 million to $18 million more. Other constraints included permitting requirements and scientific needs.

Center operating costs will be higher than for a commercial dairy due to its research focus and resulting labor and operating costs. The university plans to offset higher costs, which appear as an operating deficit when compared with a commercial dairy, through funding from research grants and contracts.

Market fluctuations in milk prices are a big concern for any operating dairy, but can be mitigated using risk management techniques common in the industry. Those strategies will provide educational opportunities for researchers, educators and students across the university.

Find more online at

Faces and Places

Lyle Hansen, UI Extension Central District directorLyle Hansen will serve as UI Extension Central District director. He has served as an Extension educator in Jerome and Ada counties during the past 12 years. Hansen previously worked in leadership positions in the finance industry.

Jim Connors, CALS Agricultural and  Extension Education Department headJim Connors, Agricultural and Extension Education Department head, was recognized as a senior fellow of the American Association for Agricultural Education, which represents teacher educators in agriculture, at its recent national meeting in San Luis Obispo, California. The national award recognizes “exceptional and sustained contributions to the profession throughout a career” by individuals with more than 20 years of service to AAAE and teacher education.


  • June 3 — CALS Summer of Science kicks off at Moscow Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by first Saturday Academy of Science at Iddings Agricultural Science Building, 1-2 p.m.
  • June 3 — Sagebrush Saturday at Rock Creek Ranch near Hailey, sponsored by the UI Rangeland Center, The Nature Conservancy and Wood River Land Trust, 9-11:30 a.m.
  • June 7-8 — Idaho FFA Career Development Events, Moscow
  • June 10 — CALS Summer of Science, Moscow Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to noon, followed by Saturday Academy of Science, UI Arboretum south entrance, 1-2 p.m.
  • June 17 — UIdaho Bound
  • June 26-294-H State Teen Association Convention, Moscow
  • June 27 — Parker Farm Field Day, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 52
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2331
Moscow, ID 83844-2331

Phone: 208-885-6681

Fax: 208-885-6654